Sunday, February 26, 2006

Measuring academic progress...

There has been much brou-ha-ha over the move towards standardized testing of college students, but at least the editorial in today's NY Times encourages educators to help solve the problem.

I can help solve this problem.

In my marketing class at Wake Forest and even starting at Penn State, I instituted service learning in those courses, as a way for students to use their knowledge to make a difference in the community.

First of all, there is always tension between town and gown, so helping non-profit organizations solve a marketing problem was a way for the students, hence the university, to "give back" to the town--free consulting, if you will.

Second, students are used to volunteering their time to clean up parks or tutor elementary students in reading, but they are not used to using the new skills they are learning in college in volunteer efforts, so service-learning is a way to bridge that gap, helping students to learn that they have more to offer than their sweat (although that is important, too).

Finally, it is a tool for measuring their learning. If a student can actually come up with marketing plan for a nonprofit organization, it means that they have learned the tools I have taught them and are able to use them in the "real world" successfully. Isn't that the most important measurement tool of all?! I know it is for the students--they feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment when they are able to do something worthwhile to help an organization that truly needs their help, and I know it is for me--I always feel a tremendous sense of pride in my students, knowing that they have truly mastered the material and have discovered the power within themselves to make a difference in the world.


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